Erie County’s plan for American Rescue Plan funds include park improvements, capital projects, and premium pay for essential workers

Erie County

(WIVB) – Erie County has been awarded $89.2 million in American Rescue Plan funding, and the county plans to use that money for park improvements, capital improvement projects, community aid, investments in the county’s water and sewer systems, and the promotion of local businesses.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) gathered at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens on Monday morning to present the “Reinvest in Erie’s Neighborhoods and Employ our Workforce (“RENEW”)” Plan.

Poloncarz says the American Rescue Plan funding will be the one of the largest one-time investments in Erie County’s history.

The plan calls for $47 million to be used for revenue loss. It also calls for restoring 107 county positions that were cut as part of the June 2020 deficit remediation plan, which cut 287 county jobs. It also will create 26 new positions, “based on lessons learned from the pandemic and to meet new operational goals”. Ten of the new positions will be with the Erie County Parks Department and other new staff will be added to the Division of Emergency Medical Services, Cancer Services Program, Purchasing, and the District Attorney’s Office.

The RENEW plan calls for restoring some funding cut to county department, and it rewards essential county employees who worked on-site through the initial days of the pandemic (March 16 to June 26) a premium pay bonus of $5 per hour.

Only employees who earned less than $116,400 (less than 150 percent of the county’s median income) will be eligible for the premium pay.

Here’s a breakdown of what else is covered under the RENEW Plan:

· Capital Improvements: The plan funds a number of upcoming or overdue capital projects, including $5 million in highway funding, a new highway barn in the Harlem District, fixing the front of the Erie County DA’s Office, and the SUNY Erie City Campus roof.

· Community Aid: Support for the Botanical Gardens, Convention Center, Naval and Servicemember’s Park, and the Workforce Investment Board, and a wide array of support for improvements in various municipalities.

· Business Promotion: The RENEW Plan calls for a promotion-based approach to encourage local shopping and small business support. It allocates $2.08 million in small business promotion.

· Park System Investment: The Plan calls for investing about $14.3 million in Erie County parks to make sure they’re in the best shape for residents. It also calls for rehabilitation of the historic Wendt Beach mansion and stables, Chestnut Ridge Casino accessibility improvements, several Chestnut Ridge Park comfort station renovations, restoration of the Como Lake Park Lighthouse, shelter and comfort station renovations at Ellicott Creek Park, restroom renovations at Grover Cleveland golf course, and shelter and amphitheater renovations at Emery Park.

· Sewer and Water Investment: The plan proposes using $31.3 million from the first portion of ARP money for Erie County Sewer District projects, including energy reductions and pumping station eliminations; physical plant improvements at ECSD water resource recovery facilities and pumping stations; pumping and process equipment rehabilitation or replacements within numerous ECSD facilities; and sewer and manhole rehabilitation/replacement projects throughout all seven Erie County Sewer Districts.

Poloncarz also said another $34 million dollars was added to the budget because they initially budgeted for a 20 percent cut in state funds, which the state just added back.

You can watch the full announcement here.

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